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Archive for Sunday, August 15, 1999

HIRING MINORITY FACULTY ESSENTIAL TO EDUCATION

August 15, 1999

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Hiring minority faculty is important because of the global community in which KU graduates must compete, the equal opportunity director says.

Chancellor Robert Hemenway wanted to have 200 minority faculty members on board at Kansas University by 2000.

He said so in his 1995 faculty convocation speech.

It was part of his mission to "welcome all peoples, respecting their differences while teaching tolerance for each human being."

The chancellor wanted to increase the number of minority faculty from the 1995 level of 124 to 200 by the year 2000.

That time's just around the corner, and the chancellor has not reached his goal.

But he's getting close, and for that he's encouraged.

"We're at 174," he said in mid-July. "I think it simply means we need to make an even greater effort this year. We may not exactly reach 200 by the year 2000, but we've clearly made some progress. We will meet that goal, if not by 2000 by 2001."

Hemenway says diversity is crucial to KU.

"My belief is that if we want a university of the quality people aspire for at KU, it has to be a university that takes advantage of all the intellectual talent of the country and the world," the chancellor said. "Clearly it calls for an increase in the number of minority faculty. It certainly calls for a diverse faculty."

In 1995, Hemenway told faculty: "If we respect all peoples, then we recruit all peoples, both as students and faculty. We cannot serve as an American democratic model unless we reflect the mosaic of the American republic."

In fall 1998 -- the last time an official count was made -- 161 minority faculty members worked on the Lawrence campus. Of those, 79 were Asian, 45 were black, 29 were Hispanic and eight were American Indian.

By percentage, 5.7 percent of the Lawrence campus faculty was Asian, 3.2 percent black, 2.1 percent Hispanic and 0.6 percent American Indian.

Hires since then bring the number on the Lawrence campus to 174, Hemenway said about a month ago.

Maurice Bryan, assistant to the provost and director of KU's equal opportunity office, said KU hired nine tenure-track faculty members during Fiscal Year 1999. KU also hired some additional lecturers who are minorities, he said.

A true count won't be available until this fall, when KU takes its next faculty snapshot, Bryan said.

He stressed that just because KU hasn't hit the 200 mark, that doesn't mean Hemenway or the university has failed.

First and foremost, Bryan said, it's encouraging that the chancellor made hiring minority faculty a goal.

"We set a target," he said. "That target, hopefully, kept the issue alive. I think we can do more, but certainly we've been going forward rather than backward."

And that's something to applaud, Bryan said. Retention of minority faculty is just as critical as new hires, he stressed.

Bryan said KU faces several challenges in trying to hire people of color.

"People who haven't had a Midwestern experience have a lot of myths about what Kansas is like," he said.

It's important to get people to Lawrence so they can take a look for themselves, Bryan said.

Salaries also present an issue, the equal opportunity director said.

"Kansas is below its peer institutions," he said.

Hiring minority faculty is important because of how globally interconnected the world has become, Bryan said.

"To not have direct experiences with people who not only look differently but think differently and have different values makes students less competent in the work force," he said.

Hiring minority faculty doesn't mean just hiring people who look different, he added. It also means hiring people who have different points of view.

A "bridge fund" through the provost's office provides financial assistance, especially when a qualified minority applicant is available but funding is not.

"Sometimes the units may not have money available for that year to help do what they need to do," he said.

The department later replenishes the fund.

KU also uses "targets of opportunity" to hire minority faculty, he said. That means appointing someone without an actual search. Another strategy is "growing your own," encouraging doctoral students to join the faculty at KU.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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